Billionaire tech investors support divisive plan to ban San Francisco’s homeless camps

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The debate over what to do about San Francisco’s homeless population has been building for awhile among the many startups and residents here. But now tech billionaires Ron Conway, Michael Moritz and well-to-do hedge fund manager William Oberndorf have each thrown about $50,000 behind a measure to rid San Francisco of its homeless tent cities.

Other notable investors, including Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s husband and venture capitalist Zach Bogue, have also donated. Bogue reportedly gave about $2,500 to support it.

Known as Proposition Q, the proposal would authorize city officials to forcibly remove the tents and other structures from sidewalks after giving its residents 24-hour written notice. The measure also says officials can only take these measures after first offering access to a shelter. However, opponents of Prop Q say this would only make life harder for the city’s homeless.

And it may be a measure made in vain. As of the beginning of August, the city had 1,203 shelter beds, with 875 people on the waitlist.

“With Proposition Q, we’re just taking away someone’s tent and making them sleep on the cold concrete,” Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness told the Guardian. “They’re not going to disappear.”

Many opposing the proposition also take issue with monied tech investor’s involvement. Their donations make up the majority of the $270,000 treasure chest in favor of Prop Q so far and those on social media and elsewhere have argued the city’s wealthy could put their money into something more useful.

Update: Conway initially declined to comment but wrote back pointing out he’d been involved in projects to help the city’s homeless before and telling TechCrunch, “Prop Q only allows for encampment removal when real housing or shelter is offered and that’s why I support it. It’s not healthy or compassionate to let human beings suffer in tent cities and we shouldn’t allow it when there’s real housing, shelter and supportive services we can provide for people instead.”

Bogue, who served on the board of the Bay Area homeless outreach organization the Tipping Point for the last several years, said he supported the proposition “because it would provide more resources to help get the homeless off the street and into shelters…The encampments are unsafe and inhumane, and frankly, I hope that this is not our solution to homelessness in the city.”

Speaking on behalf of Moritz, Nathan Ballard, spokesman for the campaign to support Proposition Q said it was, “inhumane to allow people to live on the street when shelter is available. Mr. Mortiz and Mr. Conway have joined San Franciscans from all walks of life who support Prop Q because they urgently want to see an end to the human suffering on our streets.”